Morrisons delivered another good sales performance, with total sales* excluding fuel up by 4.6% (7.6% including fuel) and like for like sales* up 2.4% (5.8% including fuel). Record numbers of customers visited our stores and sales continued to grow ahead of the market.
In the period we opened ten new stores, including our second convenience outlet, and we are on track to meet our target of adding 600,000 sq.ft. of new space during the year.
We have previously set out a range of operating and strategic initiatives designed to generate profitable growth; driving our topline, increasing our efficiency and capturing new growth opportunities. We made good progress in each of these areas during the period and will update fully on them at our preliminary results in March 2012.
The financial position of the Group remains strong and we have extended our borrowing facilities through the conclusion of a $250 million US private placement agreement over 15 years. Our programme to retire £1bn of equity over the two years to March 2013 continues. To date we have acquired and cancelled 103m shares at a total investment of £300m.
As we anticipated at our interim results announcement in September, the economic environment has remained challenging during the third quarter. Morrisons focus on providing top-quality, fresh food and keen pricing, backed by an exciting and innovative range of promotions, has again met our customers’ expectations.
We remain cautious on the overall economic environment and will continue to manage the business accordingly. Our good performance in the third quarter was in line with our expectations and the Board’s financial outlook for the year remains unchanged.